Ashley Parker reported in today’s New York Times that, “Congressional Republicans returning to Washington on Monday found themselves facing a treacherous 10 days as they try to balance their desire to fight President Obama’s executive action on immigration with the political imperative not to shut down the government.
“Congress must pass a broad spending bill before Dec. 11 to prevent a government shutdown. But Mr. Obama’s executive action last month, which could allow up to five million people now in the country illegally to live and work without threat of deportation, has inflamed Republicans and complicated their calculation over what has often been a routine spending fight.”
Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “As good as the outlook is for cattle producers over the next couple of years, it is about as grim for Iowa corn and soybean growers, thanks to tumbling commodity prices and the stubbornly high cost of growing crops.
“Lower grain prices have helped cattle, pork and other livestock producers post improved profits. But the price slump also creates economic uncertainty in a state that leads the nation in corn production and ranks second in soybeans. As Iowa grain farmers brace for potential losses, leaders ask: How much will farm income drop, and how far will it ripple?”
The article noted that, “Chad Hart, an Iowa State University farm economist, estimates that grain production losses in Iowa this year could be as high as $2.6 billion, based on year-end pricing. Farmers who nailed down higher prices earlier in the year will fare better. Overall, improved profits from livestock producers are expected to more than offset grain losses.”
The Register article added that, “Hart agreed that government subsidies will help mute the effect of lower prices and compensate some Iowa farmers for crop damage this year, such as heavy spring rains in north Iowa. ‘But it doesn’t get you out of the hole,’ he said. ‘It just makes the hole less deep.’”
Helena Bottemiller Evich reported yesterday at Politico that, “[‘Top Chef’ judge Tom Colicchio] is part of a growing army of chefs across the country looking to channel their growing celebrity to influence food and agriculture policy in Washington, from school nutrition to the farm bill to animal welfare and even fisheries management. Their number is legion, their ranks full of names like Rachael Ray and Mario Batali along with scores of local celebrity chefs and restaurateurs — and their increasingly organized effort backs up some of the Obama administration’s sweeping food policy agenda right as it faces down an adversarial Congress.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) updated its 2014 Farm Sector Income Forecast yesterday, and noted that, “Net farm income is forecast to be $96.9 billion in 2014, down 21.1 percent from 2013’s estimate of $122.8 billion. The 2014 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, but would remain $16 billion above the previous 10-year average ($80.8 billion) [related graph].”
Brian Knowlton reported earlier this week at The New York Times Online that, “President Obama, in an interview broadcast on Sunday, said he rejects Republican criticism that he has exceeded his authority in moving to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, adding that he has been ‘very restrained’ in his use of executive authority.
“Angry Republican lawmakers have accused Mr. Obama of unconstitutional, even imperial, overreach. They have pointed to past remarks in which he himself suggested that his powers to act were limited.”
The Times article added that, “Mr. Obama has framed his action not as an amnesty for some undocumented immigrants but as a directive, in part, to federal agencies to focus their attention on those with criminal records, not on law-abiding, taxpaying, longtime immigrants. In all, about five million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants would be protected.”
Kristi Boswell, Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, was a guest yesterday on the AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams, where the conversation focused on immigration issues (audio replay here, MP3- 10:18). An unofficial FarmPolicy.com transcript of yesterday’s discussion is available here.
Chris Casteel reported yesterday at The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City) Online that, “Rep. Frank Lucas spent several years working his way to the top spot on the House Agriculture Committee. Once he became chairman, in 2011, he fought for three years to get a sweeping farm bill passed; it was arguably the most significant legislation in the past two years that made it through both houses and got signed into law.
“The western Oklahoma rancher will lose his chairmanship in the next Congress, which begins in January, because of the term limits House Republicans impose on those positions. But he isn’t bemoaning the loss of power and prestige. He said his blood pressure has improved considerably.”
The article added that, “As for the Agriculture Committee, Lucas said that he’ll remain active but won’t bug the next chairman, Texas Republican Mike Conaway.
“‘I would like to give my successor an opportunity to develop his own perspective,’ Lucas said.”
Tennille Tracy reported yesterday at the Washington Wire blog (Wall Street Journal) that, “Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas), the newly appointed chair of the House Agriculture Committee, is pledging to undertake a ‘thoughtful’ review of food stamps.
“Mr. Conaway, a certified public accountant, has been critical of the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. He defended Republican-led efforts to eliminate billions from the program and supports tougher work requirements for able-bodied adults without children.
“‘The committee will conduct a thoughtful review of all programs under its jurisdiction,’ Mr. Conaway said in an e-mail. ‘It’s only natural for much of that review to focus on nutrition programs as they account for almost 80% of the spending within the jurisdiction of the committee.’”
Bill Tomson reported yesterday at Politico that, “‘It’s never too early to start on the next farm bill,’ said Rep. Mike Conaway, the next chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
“The Texas Republican, whose position in the top agriculture post was confirmed Tuesday by the House Republican Steering Committee, told POLITICO in an exclusive interview Friday that he’s already thinking about the 2019 farm bill, planning an in-depth review of the food stamp program and ready to help get an immigration reform bill done to help farmers.
“It’s too early to judge the major new subsidy programs in the 2014 farm bill — the five-year, $500 billion blueprint for U.S. agriculture policy that was only signed into law in February — but the next House Agriculture Committee chairman said he expects to begin drafting the next bill by 2017 or 2018 at the latest.”
A news release yesterday from Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) indicated that, “[Congressman Conaway] issued the following statement after the House Republican Steering Committee selected him as the 50th chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.
“‘I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 50th chairman of the storied House Committee on Agriculture. The work that farmers and ranchers do is part of our country’s foundation. They feed, fuel, and clothe our nation. I look forward to building on the bipartisan work of the chairmen who have led this committee for the past two centuries.
“‘I represent, and love, rural America. It’s the backbone of our country. The values and concepts that make America great are stored in rural America, and I want to protect that. There are fewer and fewer voices representing rural America, and I am honored to be one of those voices. That is my overarching drive as the Committee moves forward.’”
Joby Warrick reported in today’s Washington Post that, “The Obama administration has no intention of backing down on major environmental initiatives to fight climate change and improve air and water quality, EPA chief Gina McCarthy said Monday, dismissing Republican threats to thwart proposed regulations by starving the agency of money.”
The Post article noted that, “McCarthy appeared to be rejecting statements by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the presumptive Senate majority leader in the next Congress, who last week accused President Obama of waging war against the coal industry and vowed to fight the administration’s environmental proposals ‘in any way that we can.’”
“McConnell joined other key Republican lawmakers in suggesting that the new Congress would use its budget authority to block controversial proposals intended to scale back greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce pollution levels in air and water,” today’s article said.
“The average price of ‘quality’ farmland in the St. Louis Fed’s district, which includes parts of Illinois, Kentucky and Mississippi, gained 11.8% from the second quarter to its highest level since the bank launched its survey of agricultural conditions two years ago.
“The findings contrasted with reports Thursday from other Fed banks in the Midwest that showed declines in their districts’ farmland values in the third quarter, as falling U.S. crop prices pinched demand for cropland.”
From National Crop Insurance Services, November 11, 2014- Crop insurance policies must remain affordable for farmers and ranchers or the entire farm safety net will fail, crop insurance providers said today in a new educational video.
Farmers help fund current farm policy by spending approximately $4 billion a year out of their own pockets on crop insurance policies and by shouldering a portion of losses in the form of deductibles before receiving assistance.
“But if insurance bills get too big, or deductible losses get too high, fewer farmers will sign up for policies, and the whole system will collapse,” noted the video. “If that happens, not only will it be harder for farm families to bounce back after disaster, but costs that are currently being borne by farmers and private insurance providers will shift back to taxpayers.”
Congress took steps in the 2014 Farm Bill to keep crop insurance affordable. Among the steps spotlighted in the video:
· Farmers receive discounts on the premiums they pay for coverage, including discounts for new and beginning farmers looking to start a career in agriculture.
· Supplemental coverage is made available to help counterbalance a portion of deductible losses.
· And Congress defeated attempts by some opponents of agriculture to cap crop insurance benefits and make policies more expensive for everyone.
This is the second in a series of educational videos meant to highlight three policy attributes that are essential to maintaining a strong crop insurance system. The first three-minute segment examined the importance of making crop insurance, widely available, and a future piece will look at maintaining the viability of private-sector delivery.
“Congress cemented crop insurance’s role as the centerpiece of the farm safety net during the 2014 Farm Bill,” explained Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), the trade group that sponsored the video series. “However, that safety net will breakdown if crop insurance policies aren’t widely available, aren’t affordable to producers, and aren’t economically viable to be administered by efficient private insurance providers.”
From the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS)- “Increasing demand in China for imported dairy products has become a major driver in global markets, especially for milk powders and whey products. The largest increase in Chinese imports has been milk powders with greater than 1.5 percent butterfat, which includes whole milk powder. New Zealand has been the primary supplier of whole milk powder to China, while the United States has been a significant supplier of skim milk and whey products. In 2013, the United States supplied about 23 percent of China’s imports of skim milk powder and about 47 percent of its imports of whey products. Most milk powders are further processed and used for infant formulas, ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk, yogurt, milk-based beverages, and food processing. About half of the imported whey products are used for animal feed, with the rest mainly used for the processed food industry and infant formula. Find additional data and analysis of dairy markets in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: October 2014 and Dairy Data.”
Jesse Newman reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Farmland values declined across much of the Midwest in the third quarter, continuing a slowdown driven by two years of lower U.S. crop prices, according to Federal Reserve reports on Thursday.
“The average price of farmland in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s district, which includes Illinois, Iowa and other big farm states, fell 2% from the second quarter, the largest quarterly drop since the end of 2008, the Chicago Fed said.”
Legislative Agenda: Keystone, Budget- Immigration Link, and Trade
Ashley Parker and Jeremy W. Peters reported in today’s New York Times that, “As newly victorious and recently vanquished members of Congress descended Wednesday on Capitol Hill, defeated Democrats trudged in for some of their final votes, ebullient Republicans toured their new digs, and the denouement of Election Day continued to play out as the House and the Senate scheduled dueling votes to try to influence the outcome of the lone unresolved Senate race in Louisiana.
“But Wednesday’s activities — or lack thereof — after a six-week absence from the Capitol underscored how much inertia still rules. Despite larger fights over funding the government, operations in Syria, and executive action on immigration, the only votes in the Senate on Wednesday were procedural steps on a pair of federal court nominees.”
Chase Purdy reported yesterday at Politico that, “‘Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, the likely next chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, says he has no plans to reopen the farm bill to make any substantial changes,’ Pro Agriculture’s Bill Tomson reports this morning. ‘Roberts, who sought far bigger cuts to food stamps and opposed the price-based subsidies in the 2014 farm bill, stressed in an interview with POLITICO Monday that it would be a mistake to expose the massive five-year, $500 billion piece of legislation to others who would seek to make changes.’
“‘I do not intend to open up the farm bill,’ Roberts assured. ‘That would be irresponsible.’”